All students are back in the classroom and another school year is gearing up. What goals have you set for yourself this year? How will your courses and extracurricular experiences provide opportunity to explore your interests and remain balanced and joyful?
For our Seniors ’22– the College Application clock is ticking more loudly. If you haven’t yet started your college applications and essays or finalized your balanced college list– — all of these tasks should become a priority. Stress free and Strategic College Admissions Planning:
As you already know, standardized testing has been a part of the college admissions process for decades. But the past year there’s been many changes to the “TESTING” horizon.
You may have already heard about “Test Optional” universities- that concept isn’t new either- but the confusion surrounding the interpretation of that policy at the individual college level- and whether you need to test, send scores or how to organize that information on your college application may be unclear. I’ll be discussing “Test Optional” policies and provide you with the necessary clarity about what tests are currently required and optional in college admissions.
Test optional college admissions
means the student has the choice as to whether to include test scores for evaluation of their college application. This policy has been around for a while.
BUT FIRST….For Our Seniors ’22
I want to begin with an answer to two pressing questions about the SAT/ACT I know are on the minds of many seniors and even juniors (thinking about this year as their year of “testing”)
“What is the last scheduled fall SAT/ACT seniors can take to meet deadlines for submitting required scores as part of their CommonApp college applications?”
“Do I need to wait to submit my Common Application until after I take or submit my fall SAT/ACT exam scores?”
The answer to the first question depends on whether you’re an Early Action/Early Decision or Regular Decision applicant. For regular decision applicants, you can comfortably sit for the December exams at most but not all colleges likely on your radar.
For EA/ED (Understanding ED/EA application policies is discussed fully in my September Newsletter), and many public universities, the October date is typically the last acceptable test date. That said, please check each college’s website to review acceptable score report submissions.
Please read on and let me help you navigate and interpret specific university policies. The reality- if a college is “Test Optional” (close to 800 selective universities are on the Test Optional list- hang on -and read on….), you may be able to skip testing entirely.
For example, if you’re applying to the University of Floridaor Princeton, you can find information on the last accepted test dates for the 2021-22 Common Application cycle in highlighted links. If you’re not into predicting score report arrival dates- Emory has a very informative chart to ease even the most college-admissions angst filled readers today.
*** Students can and should submit completed college applications even if you anticipate taking late fall exams.
Your college application is submitted separately from required external documents including your test scores, high school transcripts and teacher recommendations.
Your application isn’t evaluated until all required components are received. That said, please submit your application as soon as your portions are complete regardless of whether you have taken all your exams and sent scores.
There’s an actual bias against “later” applications. No prizes for submitting in August with the exception of “rolling admissions’ -in which case you will hear rather quickly if you are one of the first applicants to submit. The prize is always feeling less pressured- the sooner you submit one college, things are set into motion- momentum momentum momentum.
UNDERSTANDING TEST OPTIONAL
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS POLICY
Test Optional policies have dramatically changed the college admissions horizon AND this impact has rippled through the role of AP exam scores in college admissions.
Test optional means the student has the choice as to whether to include test scores for evaluation of their college application.
The pandemic has shifted many policies and impacted many students’ timeline for testing. So please, don’t panic nor run out to hire a tutor to raise your scores just yet-as it’s highly likely you don’t need a score this admissions cycle for most universities you might be considering. The notable exception- the University of Florida public system has NEVER adopted a test optional approach and continues to emphasize test scores in admissions decisions.
SAT/ACT TEST OPTIONAL POLICIES !!!
THE BOTTOM LINE Don’t Worry About Scores!
We can all agree that the College Admissions process is complex and your application will most certainly be evaluated on several comprehensive criteria. This was true pre-pandemic but the pandemic hastened the extension of test optional admissions from the 21 cycle to the ’22 cycle.
During the first phase of the pandemic – most locations were on lock-down much of the spring leaving students — especially then Rising Seniors ’21–without any viable testing centers or dates. This resulted in hundreds of colleges DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores.
THE FAIRTEST List is a starting point- let’s discuss how to understand actual TEST OPTIONAL POLICIES you’ll find on a university website.
Typically, anything labelled as “optional” (including essays) isn’t really an option- the omission of the score or an essay can potentially suggest “disinterest”. That has all changed for the 2020-21 application cycle and now as we enter the 2021-22 cycle- we see even more change.
Let’s look at three different variations of “test optional”
The University of Chicago has been Test Optional for years. You can find a link to their very wordy policy for 2021-22 here:
I’ll highlight a few core words at UChicago:
We encourage students to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, and to share your scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential. Given that many of our peers do require testing, we anticipate that the vast majority of students will continue to take tests and may still submit their test scores to UChicago.
Let’s look at Columbia University- one of the last Ivy League schools to announce going Test Optional last year. Read here:
A few core words from Columbia:
If students have completed testing and can submit SAT or ACT results, we encourage them to do so as we believe this information can be a valuable addition in our review process.
In contrast– and I hope you see the striking contrast– comparing Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Drexel’s stated policy on Test Optional Reporting
We can’t pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like. We don’t plan to require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results.
Students who have taken a test, or even more than one test, but would still prefer not to submit those results, can make that choice.
So What Exactly Should A Senior DO
Do you report your SAT/ACT scores on your Common App 2021-2s ???
Bottom line- you must evaluate your balanced college list and your overall holistic accomplishments both within and outside the classroom.
If all of the universities on your list are “Test Optional” yet the language is suggestive of score reporting- you should consider reporting your scores if these are sufficiently within the range of reported scores of previously admitted students for a specific university. Anything that could have been included in your application that is missing could be an unfavorable tipping factor. That said, if your score is too low- you are better off excluding the score especially if other key factors like your GPA/courses and extracurriculars are STELLAR. Before making a decision — please have the conversation with someone with experience to help you evaluation your overall college application.
How do I report my scores?
Scores are reported in one of several ways:
Unofficially: Self-reports on the Common App
and/or these may appear on your high school transcript
Officially: Ordered at the College Board or ACT website directly by the student. Fees apply.
If you have a great score- submit it officially, list it on your Common App and retain that score on your high school transcript.
If your score is BELOW the reported 25th percentile of typically accepted applicants for the college of interest- don’t report- you’re better served without that score on your application and high school transcript.
Before I jump into the details (and there are many) on all other things testing – let’s focus on some changes:
HIGHLIGHTS OF OTHER MAJOR TESTING CHANGES:
I remind everyone of ACT’s postponement of their new ACT policy allowing students to sit once for a full exam and in subsequent exams retake only specifics section. The differences between the ACT and SAT are discussed in detail below . Again, this policy change rollout has been postponed.
The optional writing test of the SAT was eliminated in March 2021.
The SAT II Subject Tests were eliminated from the College Board options. While colleges will no longer list this as a required test– seniors who took such exams earlier in their high school career should list these scores on their Common App if above 675.
I’m thrilled that Test Optional policies we experienced last application season are extended to Seniors ’22 and truly hope this becomes the new normal in college admissions. I am happy to see those exams disappear- but I will miss the SATII Subject Tests because they gave students a sense of control – 1 hour – multiple choice and specific content. I’m sad to see it eliminated as an option.
Testing & College Admissions Planning
Should I list my scores on the Common App?
Each situation is unique– please speak with your GC or give me a call to discuss whether doing so will be a useful college application strategy or not. Our current seniors are facing an interesting opportunity as several hundred colleges are once again “test optional” this year — whether that impacts current juniors and sophomores down the road- is anyone’s guess.
Your Common Application has a section where you will list all test dates completed or to be taken. It is totally acceptable to leave that section blank -especially if you plan to sit for a later exam – November or December. This way, if your test scores exceed your expectations- the official score report can be sent to colleges. While if the score is sub-par no harm- no need to have listed this on your Common App. Also, many but not all high schools automatically include your scores on your official transcript.
*** Seniors – please don’t forget to send required mid-year transcripts in January to all colleges.
While all scores can be reported- as a rule- you have to determine how these will help or harm your application before blindly reporting. SCORE CHOICE and SUPERSCORE are two important concepts I discuss separately below.
Similarly, just like test scores– teacher recommendations and transcripts can and do arrive before or after your application and you don’t need to worry about whether these supporting documents find their way into your application- if you are ready to submit your college application go for it! (I’ll say more about the process for managing your application later in the fall).
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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.